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Besides the Project management points covered earlier, there are other “down to earth” issues. Even if you’ve prepared a great concept, assembled a team, and realized your idea, nobody will know about it if you’ve missed the communication part. Here’s an overview of what it takes to communicate to initiate your project.
What is communication
If the communication doesn’t seem to be worth any special attention, think about its meaning. Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place, person, or group to another. It is the basis of any action that involves more than one person. Twinning city projects involve a minimum of two people by default, and normally, there are many many more. Making mistakes in communication cause misunderstanding and often leads to project failure.
Once I’ve organized a treasure hunt quest in a popular summer vacation resort in Goa, India. After spending about a week preparing the game, I’ve developed marketing materials, made event pages in social networks, posted ads in popular social network accounts of the region. Ads were seen by several thousand people. Everything seemed to be going well. On the event day, I arrived at the venue with my partner, checking the quest print-outs and waiting for at least a dozen teams on scooters. In the next three hours, only one person came to check out the quest.
Communication helps to get rid of illusions. Not only do we need to make a proper statement about our intentions, but we must also make sure that they were a) “heard” and b) “understood” by our target audience, be it potential clients, partners, sponsors, or team members. Their opinions about your idea, views on the project development, and their role in it may be very different from what you expect.
Why develop a communication strategy?
A communication strategy sets the mood and track so that all communication activities, products, and materials work in balance to reach the desired transformation. Strategic activities and materials are more likely to cause changes. A communication strategy also lets stakeholders and partners provide their input and agree upon the best way forward so that actions are unified. With an agreed-upon communication strategy, staff and partners have a map they can refer to through the different project development stages.
The communication strategy should be developed after you’ve found best practices, made your estimations, set the plan and timeline. The strategy should be final before creating materials or activities and implementing the program.
Project communication may vary depending on:
- audience (team member, target audience, partner, stakeholder)
- communication goal or objective ( delivering a message/view, inquiry for research or opportunity, providing and receiving feedback)
- relations (official, neutral, informal)
- available channels (offline meetings, calls, video calls, e-mails, advertising, press releases, social media accounts)
- project stage (preparatory, launch, post-project)
Any communications strategy should closely reflect your overall organizational plan. Look at your organization’s overall vision and core aims and objectives. You should imply how communications can help fulfill these purposes. Ideally, set at least one communication objective for each of the organizational goals.
Define your target audiences
You need to know to whom you are delivering your messages. A target audience is anyone you seek to communicate with as part of your strategy. A project usually demands interactions with several target groups. To define your audiences, answer the following questions:
- Who should be involved in your project activities?
- Who may help in achieving your project’s goals?
- Who would potentially be interested in the outcomes of your project?
List all the target audiences of your project.
Develop key messages
The key message is the main idea you want your audience to remember or do as a result of your speech, interview, presentation, or marketing campaign. Think about what your audience knows and what you want them to do as a result of your communication. Adapt your message for each of the audiences you address based on their interests, values, and habits.
Don’t forget to test your message. Can you remember it? Make sure you can say it without looking at your notes. Test yourself. Then, say it to a friend – see if they can say it back to you. Ask them to remember it one hour later, and one day later. If they manage to repeat it – you’ve developed a memorable message. If they say it back to you in an easier way, use this new message.
- Does it correspond with your communication goal?
- Is it short (15 seconds) and easy to remember?
- Is it written in a conversational, clear manner?
- Does it include action verbs in the present tense?
- Is it focused on concrete outcomes and benefits for ordinary people?
Define communication channels
For each audience identified above, you should indicate the most appropriate channels for communicating with them. These might include an e-mail, social media message, call, video conference, workshop, leaflet, press release, event – or broader methods such as media and your website. Check 14 examples of Communication Channels on Simplicable.
There are pros and cons to all of these channels, which will vary depending on your project’s needs and resources. Try a simple analysis of the channels you have at your disposal to see which are the best to use for getting specific messages to particular audiences.
Once you have looked at the channels you have, you can begin to construct your communications plan, linking audiences, messages, and channels. Remember, that you can deliver your messages to your key recipients through multiple media channels. Decide which media channels would be the most effective to get your message delivered to your target audiences.
Make a plan
Now, it’s time to actually make the plan. A communication plan is a roadmap for communicating data, information, and knowledge. This is a type of action plan that may identify the content, goals, responsibilities, sources, audience, format, and channel for a list of planned communications.
Define your approach to the communications you’ll have throughout your project. Knowing the goals of your project, consider how frequently you’ll communicate with your target audiences, how you’ll do so, and what those communications will include.
You might to use multiple approaches, like weekly phone check-ins to update on timeline and budget progress, along with daily emails for on-the-fly questions and less frequent in-person meetings to present major project milestones.
For a start prepare be a spreadsheet with following rows.
Get inspired by different communication plan modifications.
Evaluate the results
It’s always important to measure your results to understand whether you achieved your objectives. If you aren’t satisfied with the results, make necessary adjustments in order to perform better next time. Your evaluation might take the form of the following:
- Annual reports.
- Monthly reports.
- Progress reports.
- Reports from other departments.
Prepare a short fact sheet about your project/organization/both. It should explain:
- Why does your project exist? When was your project launched?
- What are its goals and tasks?
- Why it is special and unique?
- How do you work? What are your main activities?
- What are your main achievements?
- How do twinning cities citizens benefit from your project?
If you need any extra information on the communication strategy, we recommend these comprehensive guides on building a communications strategy and developing communication materials from the Compass collection.
Stay tuned for the FIrst Steps#4!